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Keep coronavirus off your phone: How to clean your phone the right way

How to clean your phone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Learning how to clean your phone properly is incredibly important during the coronavirus pandemic. The novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, can live on surfaces for up to nine days, according to a study. One of those surfaces, which you frequently touch, is your phone so it's important to learn how to clean your phone properly.

Washing your hands is a crucial step and the first item on our coronavirus tips safety checklist, but it won't be enough — you'll need to keep your phone clean as well.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization are advising people to wash their hands often, to avoid touching their faces and to disinfect frequently touched surfaces. You probably touch your phone multiple times a day — if not every hour.

But there’s a right way to clean your phone, and a wrong way. Many of the standard cleaning products that you might use to disinfect other surfaces can damage your phone. 

So here’s how to clean your phone properly.

Do I really need to clean my phone?

First thing's first, your phone is much dirtier than you think on a regular basis, crawling with germs and fecal matter. But during this coronavirus pandemic, the CDC and WHO are recommending you disinfect frequently touched surfaces, which includes phones. 

But The Wall Street Journal talked to several infectious disease experts who had not cleaned their phone recently. 

It's presently unknown how long the novel coronavirus can survive on surfaces. “It’s possible, theoretically, for this to live on a smartphone. If you had it out and someone sneezed or coughed on it and then you handled the phone, you could pick up infection that way,” says Daniel R. Kuritzkes, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 

Emma Hayhurst, a microbiologist at the University of South Wales, added, "We don’t need to be obsessively washing our phones right now. If people are coming into contact with coronavirus patients, then, yes. Wash your phone all the time. Not because there is evidence that it will transmit via a phone but because there is no evidence that it won’t."

So should you clean your phone? It's all a matter of individual comfort. 

How to clean your iPhone: Update from Apple

Previously, Apple warned against using regular, everyday cleaning products on iPhones and iPads to avoid damaging the oleophobic coating on the screens. This is why we outlined the two methods below. 

However, Apple recently updated their guidelines confirm that it's OK to use a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes for cleaning iPhones and iPads. 

Apple says: "Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces. Don't use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don't submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents. Don't use on fabric or leather surfaces."

Apple still warns against aerosol sprays, ammonia, window cleaners, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, compressed air, and abrasives.

If you have an iPhone or iPad, follow the instructions below in the rubbing alcohol method, but instead of making your own diluted isopropyl alcohol solution and spraying it on a cloth, you can use alcohol wipes or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. 

(If you're really worried about damaging your phone, despite this new advice, the Wall Street Journal used a Clorox wipe on an iPhone 1,095 times and the coating was still in good condition.)

How to clean your iPhone: Update from Samsung

Samsung is telling Galaxy owners that it's now OK to dampen a cloth with a disinfectant or alcohol-based solution and wipe gently. But do not apply liquid directly onto the phone.

Samsung is also offering a free Galaxy Sanitizing Service using UV light in some countries, including the United States. 

The company said in a statement: "The Galaxy Sanitizing Service is being offered for free through official Samsung Service Center and Samsung Experience Stores in select countries currently and the service is being expanded continuously. It simply sanitizes the phone with UV-C light, no harsh cleaning chemicals required. These devices can be used to sanitize Galaxy phones, the Galaxy Watch, and the Galaxy Buds."

How to clean your phone: The water and soap method 

Many phone manufacturers, including Samsung, warn against using regular cleaning products on phones, as the substances can damage protective coatings. 

This method uses regular old soap instead. Just be careful with the amount of water you use, and don’t get any water into the phone’s ports. (For that reason, it's probably best to only use this method on phones with an IP rating for water resistance.)

What you need:

1. Power down the phone and remove any case or attachments.

2. In a container, make a warm solution of water and soap.

3. Wet a cloth with the solution (but don’t soak it) and wipe down the phone, avoiding ports and other openings.

4. Use dry cotton swabs around camera lenses, ports and other openings. If necessary, blow air with your mouth to dislodge dust and other particles. Never use compressed air (more on that below).

5. Allow the phone to dry completely before inserting it back into a case or plugging in any attachments.

Note: If you have an older phone that might be less resistant to liquid, only wipe it down with a dry cloth.

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How to clean your phone: The rubbing alcohol method 

As we mentioned above, manufacturers warn against using cleaning products on phones. But if you’re truly worried about germs, it’s time to go with isopropyl alcohol.

What you need:

1. Power down the phone and remove any case or attachments.

2. In the spray bottle, mix two parts distilled water and one part isopropyl alcohol (from a bottle of 91% alcohol). Ultimately, the solution should be around 30% alcohol.

3. Lightly spray the solution onto a cloth so that it’s damp but not soaking wet. Wipe down the phone, avoiding ports and other openings.

For iPhones and iPads, lightly wipe the screen, back and edges, avoiding ports and other openings.

4. Use dry cotton swabs around the camera lenses, ports and other openings. If necessary, blow air with your mouth to dislodge dust and other particles. Never use compressed air (more on that below).

5. Allow the phone to dry completely before inserting back into a case or plugging in any attachments.

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How to clean your phone: The UV method 

If you don’t want to use any liquid on your phone, consider getting an ultraviolet-light phone sanitizer. Think of it as a tanning bed for your phone, but one that uses UV-C light to kill bacteria. One of the best-reviewed options is PhoneSoap (order on Amazon) which costs $79.95.  

How to clean your phone: What NOT to use 

Cleaning your phone is important in warding off germs and the spread of coronavirus and other diseases, but you also don’t want to damage the phone. So be sure to avoid these items: 

  • Window cleaners (like Windex)
  • Kitchen cleaners (like Lysol and Fantastic)
  • Paper towels (they can leave debris and even scratch your phone's surface)
  • Compressed air (the intense bursts can damage ports, specifically the mic)
  • Disinfectant wipes (the alcohol level may be too strong)

How to clean your phone: Don’t forget to clean the case, too 

 What’s the point of going through all the trouble of cleaning your phone if you put it back into a dirty case? Here’s what you can use to clean every type of phone case:

Plastic case: Soak in bleach and other household cleaners. Rinse and dry.

Rubber and silicone cases: Dampen cloth with solution of dish soap and water. Wipe case. Dry.

Wood cases: Dampen cloth with solution of two parts water to one part vinegar. Wipe case. Dry.

Leather cases: Lightly dampen cloth with solution of mild hand soap and water. Dry with another cloth. Optional: Apply leather conditioner to case. 

Always allow the case to thoroughly dry before you put it back on the phone.

How to clean your phone: Keep your hands clean 

The best way to keep your phone clean is by washing your hands frequently and especially before touching the phone. 

Also be mindful of where you take and use your phone. A 2019 survey found that 88 percent of people use their phones while sitting on the toilet. That can expose the phone to bacteria and germs, so consider stowing it away until you’ve washed your hands again.

  • draw8962
    91💯 alcohol sprayed on a cotton cloth wipe phone down detail with Qtip & out of case.
    Same thing making hand sanitizer add to aloe vera gel with few drops of essential oil I use a defense blend don't use it on any electronic devices.
    Reply